West Surrey Area
Museums & Art Galleries
The Founders and Treasures of the Wallace Collection
of the lecture given by Stephen Duffy
on March 23rd 2016
Our speaker was Stephen Duffy, one of the curators of
the gallery, who related for us the story of the formation of the
collection and discussed many of its finest treasures.
The lecture is linked to the Cranleigh DFAS visit to the Wallace
Collection planned for 14 April 2016.
In his overview of the Collection, Stephen pointed out that it consists
of five and a half thousand works, including medieval glass, majolica,
arms and armour and many quality paintings.
Probably the most famous painting in the collection is
Cavalier” by Frans Hals. However, it was pointed out that this
title is entirely inappropriate since the image has more of a
self-satisfied smirk than a laugh, and he is not dressed as a
cavalier. In fact his clothing is very finely wrought and has
images indicating love.
an unknown man or “The
Frans Hals (1624)
The collection was started, purely for his own
interest, by the first
Marquess of Hertford on his Grand Tour, during which he bought several
works by Canaletto.
The second Marquess of Hertford continued to purchase works of
art. His position in the government owed much to the affair his
wife, the second Marchioness of Hertford, had with the Prince of Wales,
later George IV. It was the second Marquess who started the long
association with Hertford House, now the home of the collection.
The third Marquess was a considerable connoisseur of the arts. He
bought Titian’s Perseus and Andromeda
and seventeenth-century Dutch paintings such as Netscher’s The Lace Maker and Rembrandt’s Good Samaritan as well as French
furniture, gilt bronzes and Sèvres porcelain.
The fourth Marquess of Hertford devoted the last thirty years of his
life (from the age of 43 in 1843) to collecting works of art, and was
responsible for the major part of the Wallace Collection as it is
today. He bought Dutch paintings including Rembrandt’s Titus and Hals' Laughing Cavalier, many superb Old
Masters and most of the nineteenth century paintings now in the
collection. He paid £2,040 for the Laughing Cavalier, beating
Rothschild at the auction – much to his pleasure.
He also bought fine Sèvres porcelain, furniture by the great cabinet makers,
miniatures, gold boxes, tapestries and sculpture, and Oriental arms and
armour. He attached great importance to the finish, good
condition and known provenance of the pieces, preferring pleasing and
sensuous works of art, typical of which is The Swing by Fragonard.
The fourth Marquess never married, but had a son, Richard, with Mrs
Agnes Jackson. Richard later changed his surname to Wallace, his
mother’s maiden name, and became secretary to his father, eventually
inheriting most of his wealth. He was made a baronet in
1871. He was a great philanthropist and continued to enlarge his
father’s collection both before and after his death.
John Murray Scott became the first trustee of the Wallace Collection.
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